When it comes to exciting city breaks, Dubai and Singapore are two that should be near the top of everyone’s bucket list. That’s because both of these lively cities can offer unique experiences and unforgettable vacations.
However choosing whether to visit Dubai or Singapore for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday can be exceptionally difficult.
Thankfully we know both cities well, so are here to help you decide which one is right for you.
Dubai or Singapore: Which should you choose?
Both Dubai and Singapore are ultra-modern cities, with great infrastructure and a host of things to do. But there are important differences between each as we show here.
Below we compare both cities, and give our honest opinion on which is safer, cheaper, has the best excursions, nightlife, and more:
Dubai vs Singapore: Which is the better cultural experience?
Singapore is probably the most modern city in South East Asia, and with that has come an interesting mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western influences and culture. Globalization has driven Singapore’s recent development and it has a very ‘Western’ feel to it – that’s taken its toll on Singaporean culture. That said the ‘Little India’, and ‘Chinatown’ areas of the city have their own cultural charm.
You won’t find a plethora of street sellers here like in other Southeast Asian destinations, and this city is far more ordered and calm – which actually makes it a pretty good destination for a relaxed vacation. Still, remnants of the Singapore of old still exist if you know where to look – for example the bustling late-night food market, Newton Market.
While Singapore’s global and modern feel has grown organically, Dubai has created skyscrapers, malls, and even artificial islands in an attempt to become one of the world’s most sought-after vacation spots. It’s worked.
The oil money that has driven this change has transformed Dubai, but Islam remains at the heart of the city, and the beautiful Jumeirah Mosque is worth visiting.
There’s plenty of local food to try out in restaurants too, but you’ll struggle to find street markets like in other big cities around the world.
For those reasons, we think Singapore has the edge when it comes to cultural experiences.
Dubai vs Singapore: Which has the better nightlife?
Despite being part of the Muslim majority UAE, there are many clubs and bars that serve alcohol in Dubai, and the city has an exciting nightlife scene.
However only certain establishments can sell alcohol – like hotels, clubs and restaurants – so most of Dubai’s drinking spots are quite exclusive and sometimes expensive as they are mainly located inside hotels. These nightlife spots are fun and energetic though.
In Singapore there’s plenty of cocktail lounges, budget beer places, and nightclubs to dance until the early morning.
The nightlife in Singapore is focused around the city center, and for classy cocktails with a view head to Marina Bay where Singapore’s best dressed congregate in the early evening. If you’re wanting a more lively time then Clarke Quay is the place to be – packed with bars and nightclubs, this is Singapore’s late night spot.
Because Singapore’s nightlife is more diverse than Dubai, and the fact this is a city which is more relaxed about dress code and showing romantic intentions, we actually think it’s a better nightlife spot. If you want exclusive clubs and high-end bars, Dubai may suit you better though.
Dubai or Singapore: Which has the better excursions?
Dubai is a city that has risen out of the desert, and it’s styled itself as the ultimate vacation destination. It’s been successful in doing so thanks to the wide range of excursions and things to do here. That includes surprising options like skiing indoors on actual snow, huge water parks, and swimming in the world’s highest pool.
Visiting the highest building in the world – the Burj Khalifa – is a must, as is Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. Outside of the city are more adventurous options, like dune buggy racing in the desert, sky diving and camel riding. There’s no real scenic beauty here – unlike Singapore which is lush and tropical – but Dubai is a place for adventure rather than scenery.
The city-state of Singapore has a wealth of things to do as well, and excels when it comes to family friendly excursions. Singapore has theme parks, a zoo, aquariums, opportunities to spot dolphins, and spectacular birds like endangered parrots at Jurong Bird Park.
It’s also a city with many green spaces, making it perfect for picnics, romantic walks and more. One of those spaces is Mount Faber, which is a rainforest-clad hill with some lovely trails, and even a cable car so you can enjoy lovely views across Singapore. You can also visit the nearby Sentosa Island which has gorgeous golden beaches.
When it comes to excursions both of these destinations have great choices. But in our opinion, Dubai probably just edges it due to the variety of excursions on offer.
Dubai or Singapore: Which has the better shopping?
Both of these cities have famous shopping streets and mega malls, so you’re unlikely to be disappointed if you have ambitions of a shopping spree.
Singapore is a great shopping destination when you’re on the hunt for high-end brands. In particular Orchard Road is famous for its luxury retail outlets and world-class cuisine options.
Dubai has several massive malls selling luxury goods and brands from around the world, and may be one of the best shopping cities on the planet. However in the old town you can still find more traditional markets like Bur Dubai and Souk Madinat Jumeirah where it’s possible to pick up a bargain, antiques, and more.
Dubai vs Singapore: Which is cheaper?
In terms of expenses we’ve found Dubai to be a cheaper destination than Singapore in regards to accommodation, food, and more. There isn’t a huge difference in price, and in places like Newton Market in Singapore you can find cheap food, but overall Dubai is less expensive.
Dubai vs Singapore: Which is safer?
Both are safe destinations, which is why tourists visit in huge numbers every year. However, as always when on holiday you should avoid confrontations with locals, avoid walking in unlit areas at night, and keep an eye on your drinks when at clubs and bars.
The reality is that both Dubai and Singapore are two of the safest cities in the world, and crime against foreigners – even petty theft – is incredibly rare.
Dubai or Singapore: What about the weather?
It’s worth mentioning the weather, as Dubai can get extremely warm during the summer months – upwards of 40 Celcius (104 Fahrenheit). Between November – February, the temperatures are far more pleasant (25C/77F), which is worth factoring into your decision about where and when to go on holiday.
Singapore is more humid than Dubai, and rainfall can be common during the two monsoon seasons (December to March, and June to September). However daytime temperatures typically float around 30 Celsius or 86 Fahrenheit throughout the year.
Dubai vs Singapore: Which is the better choice?
Both cities are definitely worth visiting at some point, and each has its own unique charm and quirks.
If you’re looking for adventurous excursions and great shopping, then Dubai may be a better choice than Singapore. However it’s best to visit in winter when temperatures are cooler.
A Singapore vacation has some great excursion options too, and may be a better choice if you’re looking for a relaxed city break with a varied nightlife, good food, and cultural experiences.